Thursday, December 30, 2004

Responding to disaster

This report from Episcopal News Service shows some of the strengths of the Episcopal Church, in it's quick response to the earthquake and tsunami of Dec. 26. This morning, there are warnings that there may be more tsunamis on the way, and the death toll is already expected to pass 100,000.

This report also gives us glimpses of how people who are posted in churches and dioceses in South Asia are responding to the disaster.

Bulletin: Tsunami aid begins through Episcopal Relief & Development

ENS 122804-1
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
[Episcopal News Service] With numbers of dead and homeless rising across southern Asia in the wake of December 26th's unprecedented Indian Ocean tsunami, Episcopal Relief and Development has begun emergency response efforts and welcomes financial contributions to aid these initiatives.

ERD representatives request that contributions be directed to Episcopal Relief and Development, South Asia Relief Fund, P.O. Box 12043, Newark, NJ 07101. Contributions may also be forwarded on-line ( ).

Devastation is reported worst in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and India among other southern Asian countries.

The retired Anglican bishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Fernando, was the first to reach the Episcopal News Service with comment by electronic mail December 27: "We have received many inquiries about the situation in Sri Lanka after the disaster. It has been a very heavy disaster. Most of those affected are the poor who live in little shanties by the sea. They have lost everything.

"Our churches are being used as temporary camps and the government, and NGO's (non-governmental organizations) are beginning to function.

"Since we live near a lake only a few miles from the sea, we had a few anxious moments as I thought the water level of the lake would rise. But there has been no change at all."

Fernando -- who is well known for building Buddhist-Christian-Muslim dialogue and has served the Anglican Communion as head of its NIFCON effort to build interfaith dialogue with the use of technology among other strategies -- said that various relief agencies, including OXFAM and the World Council of Churches, had begun helping Sri Lanka. 

"Many thanks for your concern for us," he added. "We are hoping there will be no after shocks, The people are very frightened."

Meanwhile, from the Church of South India, Bishop Thomas Samuel of the Diocese of Madhya Kerala, sent the following message to Oregon Bishop Johncy Itty:

"It is with deep distress and immense grief that I share with you the terrible tragedy that has hit the coastal regions of Tamil-Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Sri Lanka. The magnitude of the disaster is difficult to comprehend mainly becasuse of its unexpected nature and also because of lack of exact statistics. The figure of the death toll in South India has gone up to 15,000. This tragedy has suddenly made us not only challenged into rising up to the situation but also made us realize our insufficiency and vulnerability.

"The worst-hit Alappuzha and Kollam are in Madhya Kerala Diocese where thousands were rendered homeless and many were reported missing. Many in these areas  were caught and crushed and washed away before they even knew what was happening. There is no electricity and borewells put for drinking water supply were also destroyed. This is the worst national disaster in recent history because it is affecting so many heavily populated coastal areas. We could have epidemics within a few days unless we get health systems up and runing.

"Our diocesan pastors and leaders have rushed to the disaster areas with food, clothing, medicine etc. Our focus is on supply of drinking water, food and clothing. Sanitation is a big problem. Many camps have been set up to accommodate thousands of homeless people.

"We would greatly appreciate if you would kindly extend your generous support to the relief work. Please do remember us in your prayers."

Also in Tamil-Nadu, Bishop V. Devasahayam of India's Diocese of Chennai, a port center, concurred in a phone interview reported to ERD that the worst damage was in Tamil-Nadu, south of Madras. He said among the hardest hit were fisher-folk, many of whom were fishing at the time of the tsunami. Some 2,000 power boats and 20,000 catamarans were lost, he said.  Many of the islands have been washed out. The bishop said his diocese has set up relief stations in many of the churches. He said the local cathedral complex survived as did many of the churches, including St. Mary's by-the-Sea.
-- From Staff Reports


In other news, I see St. Nicholas visited Canterbury Palace Christmas Day. Despite dire predictions from the conservative wings of the church, he did not leave lumps of coal in Archbishop Rowan Williams' Christmas stocking. In fact, he seemed rather chummy with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Way to go, ABC!  

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